It’s been a while since the Lord of the Rings craze a few years back, but we soon we’ll be revisiting Middle Earth again through the release of The Hobbit.
I loved the books and loved the movies for a lot of reasons, but there’s a theme I want to highlight that always stood out to me and that still influences my thinking today. There’s a strong contrast in these books between Mordor and the rest of Middle Earth.
Mordor, the land of the enemy and of most things evil, is driven by power, by the dark side of industrialization, and a general disregard of anything sacred. Sacred resources were squandered and cast aside for the sake of production and control.
The rest of the surrounding lands are often shown to be showing value to their peoples and to creation. The Hobbits and Elves especially are shown operating their lives and worlds around that which is sacred.
So what’s the point of all this?
Ministry has a Mordor.
Now I’m not talking about going green. Ministry, like other contexts, have the same tensions and conflicts related to power, dehumanizing mechanization, and control. And as I continue to reflect on the nature of spiritual warfare, I think these enemies of the sacred, these enemies of souls, are at the heart of much spiritual warfare.
But while the film captures this in black and white terms of what is evil and what is good, there is a sobering reality that there’s a little Mordor in and around all of us. Not all of us see what is sacred or we have far too narrow of a view of what truly is sacred. Others of us see what is sacred, but fail to understand how to order our lives and our work in ways which affirms that which is sacred versus that which is not.
But sense there could be plenty of discussion as to what is sacred, let’s just focus on one thing that most of us would agree is sacred – people.
Here is where Mordor shows up in ministry and in plenty of other places.
1. Mordor leaders only respect power, title or position, or those with talents that easily assist their own increased status and power. These leaders can love God and read the Bible and be respected in a lot of ways because they get things done. The problem is that they often get things done in ways that erode or ignore the sacred.
If you as a leader only listen to or respect those with a title, power, or position – it’s a sign of arrogance, pride, and a power orientation in leadership. Period. You may get things done. But you are leaving a wake of Mordor in your path. Leaders connected to what is sacred to God, treat the things He thinks are sacred as sacred. This means listening, trusting, and respecting people even if the organizational hierarchy doesn’t necessitate it. Not much makes me more sad when I saw people getting dismissed with a “who are you to open your mouth” type of attitude.
Good luck empowering others that way. God sees.
2. Mordor leaders use people to accomplish goals and their ends without awareness of all the rest of the reality which they don’t find useful to their agenda. Again – these people could be great people, spiritually strong, and in general be well respected. The problem is they often only see things through the lens of their own agenda. Therefore, resources (human) are seen only in light of the agenda and much of what is central to what is sacred in humanity goes unseen or unacknowledged.
What is sacred in human resources? Here’s a couple things – identity (including gender & cultural), story, and voice. Yet people are squeezed to fit agendas often with little regard for who these people really are and why THEY AS INDIVIDUALS MATTER.
3. Mordor leaders preserve the hierarchy and their own status within it. The other side of this is that they keep others down. Call it the Mordor ceiling if you will – where control is of such great importance (acknowledged or not) that real change that upsets the hierarchy is unlikely. Ministry will take place and great things may happen, meanwhile everyone must stay in their place. Mordor leaders have a sense of entitled authority that leads to narcissistic environments that often maintain the status quo through fear.
There’s much that has been covered about spiritual warfare, but I’ve grown convinced that an undervalued dimension to spiritual warfare are those systemic patterns like the above that can demean, silence, dis-empower, control, and even intimidate sacred souls. Furthermore, the above types of things often are condoned, approved, and even rewarded. How does this happen? Simply because the values of Mordor show up in a lot of places (power, control, efficiency, productivity) and they blind people to seeing the sacred. The “mission” somehow seems to undermine the sacred because the mission is seen as more sacred than individuals.
The battle is being waged every day between that which is sacred and those enemies which seek to squeeze human beings into the productivity/efficiency machine.
Our leadership can be sacred – in that we organize our values and practices around that which is sacred, much like the Elves and Hobbits in Middle Earth had cultures in which what they viewed as sacred was preserved.
Mordor leadership isn’t always lived out by evil people. Good, well-meaning people can stomp on the sacred without even being conscious of it. But if we never change, we are perpetuating dark patterns that wound that which is sacred.
How do you stay connected to that which is sacred about people?
What are the challenges you face in organizing your practices and values around that which is sacred in people?